Cats understand the principle of cause and effect as well as some elements of physics. Combining these abilities with their keen sense of hearing, they can predict where possible prey hides. These are the findings of researchers from Kyoto University in Japan, led by Saho Takagi and published in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition.
Of course cats understand cause and effect. The cat who jumped onto the hot stove does not do it again, as Mark Twain observed.
That has nothing to do with understanding the elements of physics, which are a pure abstraction.
Which is why, as Twain observed, the cat never jumps up on any stove again, and learns nothing further from the experience.
Researchers suggest that species’ surroundings influence their ability to find out information based on what they hear. The ecology of cats’ natural hunting style may therefore also favor the ability for inference on the basis of sounds. Takagi explains that hunting cats often need to infer the location or the distance of their prey from sounds alone because they stake out places of poor visibility. Further research is needed to find out exactly what cats see in their mind’s eye when they pick up noises, and if they can extract information such as quantity and size from what they hear. Paper. (paywall) – Saho Takagi, Minori Arahori, Hitomi Chijiiwa, Mana Tsuzuki, Yuya Hataji, Kazuo Fujita. There’s no ball without noise: cats’ prediction of an object from noise. Animal Cognition, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10071-016-1001-6 More.
You bet cats can infer by sounds. Those great big ears are not a fashion statement.
The stupidest local rodent by far is the chipmunk, a creature who, when it feels endangered under a deck or something, feels compelled to cry out chip! chip! chip!, which provides the cat the exact thing it needs to locate it. Smell wouldn’t work because the entire area smells of rodent. So if the rodent had just kept quiet …
Now, excuse me while I go rescue a stupid rodent who failed to heed all the wise advice. Hoping to avoid another tetanus shot.
See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds
Understanding animal cognition: In search of the minimal self
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